Price Increases Affect Customers, Businesses This Thanksgiving Season

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A male wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) strutting at Deer Island Open Space Preserve near Novato, Marin County, California

It is turkey turmoil this Thanksgiving season.
With inflation and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) detection of avian flu virus, customers will be paying a bit more for their turkeys and side dishes this season.
“The United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world,” read a Nov. 2 press release from the USDA. “Through our ongoing wild bird surveillance program, [Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)] collects and tests large numbers of samples from wild birds in the North American flyways. It is not uncommon to detect avian influenza in wild birds, as avian influenza viruses circulate freely in those populations without the birds appearing sick. In addition to monitoring for avian influenza in wild bird populations, APHIS monitors for the virus in commercial and backyard birds. With the recent detections of the Eurasian H5 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds and domestic poultry in the United States, bird owners should review their biosecurity practices and stay vigilant to protect poultry and pet birds from this disease. APHIS is working closely with State partners on surveillance, reporting, and control efforts.”
The result is a price increase of turkeys. The New York Farm Bureau sent out volunteer shoppers to see how prices have changed over the year for popular Thanksgiving items.
“Our volunteer shoppers found turkey prices to be about $1.89 per pound in New York State, which is 43 cents per pound over last year’s average price in this informal survey,” a press release from the New York Farm Bureau read. “This price is slightly above the national average of $1.81/lb. As we move closer to Thanksgiving, turkey prices may drop in the stores, reflecting sales in the final days before the holiday.”
Even Miloski’s Poultry Farm out in Calverton had to increase their price for birds because of the avian flu.
But it’s not just turkeys that are causing consumers to pay extra this season.
“New York Farm Bureau’s 2022 Market Basket Survey shows the price of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner saw a double-digit price jump from last year’s meal,” the press release from the New York Farm Bureau read. “The average total price, which includes a 16-pound turkey and other common items found on a holiday dinner table, is $66.39, about a 26 percent increase over last year’s price of $52.59.”
The New York Farm Bureau found price increases over last year in nearly every category of Thanksgiving fixings, except for fresh cranberries which saw a 30-cent decrease. “The most notable increases were for stuffing mix, brown-and-serve rolls, and frozen pie crusts,” the press release added.

Why the sudden price
increase in food?
“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 0.4 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis, the same increase as in September,” the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Nov. 10. “Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 7.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.”
The food at home index rose 12.4 percent over the last 12 months, with the index rising 0.4 percent over the past month.
Nassau Kosher Meats & Kitchen in East Meadow is among the stores being impacted by these increasing prices. Almost everything is seeing a price increase, a representative from the store said.

What’s causing it?
There are a few reasons. Forbes reported in September that pandemic-related disruptions, the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia are just a few reasons that consumers are seeing prices go up on their groceries.
“We are seeing [price increases] across the board from the meat department, our produce items and our grocery items,” said Adrianna Schutz, an owner of Gemelli Market North in Glen Head. “It affects us a lot because we are a small mom and pop store. We don’t have the buying power like these bigger supermarkets, but we try to pride ourselves on our customer service.”
One issue that is directly impacting the produce section is the drought in California.
“We’re finding that a lot of romaine lettuce and iceberg lettuce are triple the price,” Schutz said. “Right now they’re red-coded because it’s just insane how much the prices have increased.”
Salinas Valley, known as the “salad bowl of the world” because it produces 70 percent of the lettuce, is among the regions that have just been issued an excessive heat warning by Monterey County Office of Emergency Services.
“At the retail level, three-packs of romaine lettuce, which were $5 a year ago, are fetching up to double that,” the Toronto Star reported. “At the wholesale level, prices have more than tripled over the past few months. The culprit, say experts, is a hotter than normal growing season in California, which reduced crop yields and made it harder for lettuce plants to fight off pests and viruses. And it’s something that could happen again because of climate change.”

Will the prices go down?
Morgan Stanley Research believes that food prices, up 65 percent globally in the last two years, will peak this year and will begin to drop in 2023.
“While we recognize investor concerns that food prices may escalate further, we believe the market is underappreciating the factors that will cause future food price increases to moderate,” says Morgan Stanley Equity Analyst Roberto Browne.
Among those factors, the article read, are an expected increased output by farmers and weather normalization.

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